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May 23, 1986

POW-turned-physician pilots revised course

JAMA. 1986;255(20):2719-2720. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370200017003

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A physician now working in South Carolina is among those persons who can discuss torture from the personal perspective of having been its victim.

Nearly 20 years ago, on Sept 4, 1966, Thomas M. McNish—then a fighter pilot in the US Air Force and still a professional military officer—was shot down over North Vietnam while approaching a target 12 miles from Hanoi, the capital. He ejected from his F-105 "Thunderchief" jet fighter-bomber at a speed of more than 500 miles per hour. For the next 6 1/2 years, McNish was held captive by the North Vietnamese.

While a prisoner, he was a victim of torture. After his release, he attended medical school and completed a residency in family medicine. Still in the Air Force and now a lieutenant colonel, McNish is commander of the military hospital on the base at Myrtle Beach, SC. He recently talked to MEDICAL NEWS &